When Less is More, Sixpoint’s Pumkinless Pumpkin Beer

This is a review of Autumnation, a seasonal beer made by Sixpoint Brewery out of Brooklyn, NY.  Before I get to the beer itself you’ll have to forgive me for going off on a rather long tangent on how I came to buy this beer.

Autumnation2

I first encountered Autumnation at Savor Growl (my local growler store) where I tried a taste when sampling beers for the IPA blind taste test we had back in October.  We decided not to buy any that day, but something the server said stuck in my mind.  He said that he thought it was brewed with some kind of vegetable like pumpkin, but not pumpkin, maybe squash.  So a few weeks later when I was looking for one last pumpkin beer to review for the “Picks from the Pumpkin Patch” post, I thought it would be worthwhile to throw a squash beer in the mix, so I picked up a 4-pack of Autumnation.  When I tried the beer later that night it tasted a lot more like an IPA than a pumpkin/squash beer.  At this point I decided to read the label on the can.  I was so confident in my all-encompassing knowledge of the beer world that I didn’t bother to do this at the store. I found the following description, in the typical poetic prose that Sixpoint uses to describe their beers:

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.  One of the most special times of the year for craft brewers is the hop harvest.  The Autumnation celebrates this season with the unique flavors of fresh “wet hops” chosen by our fans.”

OK so this is a wet hop beer and not a vegetable beer.  As a general rule I’d take a wet hop beer over a squash beer just about any day of the week, so I wasn’t too disappointed with this twist.  However, I was a little perplexed to get such bad information at Savor Growl.  After a little digging around online I realized that my server was not quite as confused as one might think.  Here is a quote from the Sixpoint website on the 2012 Autumnation:

“Created with this special season in mind, Autumnation is brewed with fall-favorite pumpkin, as well as ginger and freshly harvested “wet hops.”

So the 2012 version was a wet hopped, pumpkin beer brewed with ginger.  Does that sound like a combination that works well together?  It’s true that hops and pumpkins are both harvested in the fall, and there is a certain line of thinking that would lead one to think that’s enough.  I used a similar faulty logic many years ago to justify adding tequila to guacamole on the premise that cuisine and liquor from the same country must complement each other.  As my wife would gladly tell you with very little prompting, the tequila/guacamole experiment did not have a happy ending.  From reading reviews on the 2012 batch of Autumnation, Sixpoint experienced a similar fate with last year’s batch of Autumnation.  So this year they decided to ditch the pumpkin and ginger and just make a fresh hop beer.  A good decision I think.

Vitals

  • Brewery: Sixpoint (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Style: American Pale Ale
  • ABV: 6.7%
  • IBUs: 74
  • Availability: Fall seasonal

There is one more twist in the Autumnation story.  The variety of hops they use for wet hopping are chosen by “their fans”.  Presumably this means there is an online vote and the hop style that gets the most votes is used.  This year Mosaic hops were the winner, while in 2012 Citra hops were used.  I did love the use of Mosaic hops in Alchemy Hour by Great Lakes Brewing last year (and renamed Chillwave for the coming year I just learned), so I had high hopes for Autumnation.

My Review

What about the quality of this year’s batch of Autumnation.  As you see from the picture above (inspired by the Autumnation picture posted on Bryan Roth’s Beertography post ) it pours a deep copper color somewhat darker than the can it comes in.  There is a massive thick white head on this beer that recedes in an uneven fashion that leaves behind of big chunks of head and extensive lacing.  There is a juicy, fresh hop aroma, but you have to look for it.  Compared to the best wet hop beers I’ve had this year the nose is pretty tame.  Hops are at the fore of the taste, but they give a somewhat generic hop profile.  By that I mean they give roughly equal amounts of citrus, floral, and pine flavors. There is a nice hop-malt balance, and the bitterness is middle of the road for an IPA.

Summary

Overall Autumnation is a pretty good beer.  I’d take my chances with it vs. the best squash beer on the market, which may be like saying Autumnation is better than nothing at all.  Their decision to take pumpkin and ginger out of the recipe makes a strong case for the “less is more” approach.  If I were to rate against other 2013 wet hop beers I’ve tried, I would say it does not measure up to Founders Harvest Ale or Columbus Brewing’s Fresh Hop beer, but it is way better than Hopivore by New Holland Brewing.

Rating = 7

Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers in the world, 8 = very good, one of the top beers in its style category, 7 = good, a solid beer I’m happy to be drinking, 6 = average, not bad but not something I’m likely to buy again, 5 = below average, 3-4 = poor, should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.

3 thoughts on “When Less is More, Sixpoint’s Pumkinless Pumpkin Beer

Add yours

  1. I made the same mistake as you! I bought a four-pack of this while I was visiting friends and did a quick search for the beer on my phone, apparently ignoring the “2011-2012” part of search results. All the same, I’ve also liked this one. It’s made for a nice fall 1-2 punch with Sierra Nevada’s Celebration.

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